What is “reasonableness’ in the concept of reasonable accommodation” when it comes to applying accessibility and universal design? Professor Rafael de Asis Roig discusses this philosophical question in the context of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability. He contends that the content of universal accessibility is “constrained by three types of circumstances that could be considered as the bounds for what is necessary, possible and reasonable”.
For anyone interested in the debate about reasonableness, and the application of “unjustifiable hardship” rulings by the Australian Human Rights Commission, this article explores reasonableness from different perspectives and concludes,
“Therefore, in accordance with the foregoing, it is possible to have a comprehensive vision about reasonableness in the disability domain. This demand makes it necessary to deem a measure as reasonable in the context of disabilities when:
It is justified because it adequately provides for full participation in society.
It shall be deemed as possible, taking into account the state of scientific, technical and human diversity knowledge.
It shall be deemed as a non-discriminatory differentiation or undifferentiation which is not harmful for physical and moral integrity and at the same time does not prevent from meeting basic needs nor avoids participation in society on an equal basis.
It shall be deemed as proportional and, therefore, entails more advantages than sacrifices within the context of human rights.
It shall be deemed as acceptable by the community to which it is addressed.”
An earlier unpublished article tackles the issues of human rights and “unjustifiable hardship” in the Australian context by Schraner, Bringolf and Sidotiwhich discusses the issues from an economic perspective. Written in 2012, it pre-dates the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
The United Nations has an Easy Read version on their website, complete with illustrations. The Victorian version is designed for service providers and picks out the key points in a table format. The Enable version is more accessible to people who have difficulty with literacy. These documents make for handy ready reference for everyone without having to work through the UN document itself. You can access all documents through the UN website.
DISABILITY & DEVELOPMENT: How to include persons with disabilities in development cooperation.
Although this manual is aimed at people working on aid programs in developing countries, there are many aspects that could be applied in the Australian context.
The first chapter covers the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the development process supported by the international cooperation. The second chapter relates the collection and analysis of inclusive development appropriate practices based on RIDS members’ experience. The manual ends with a series of recommendations aimed at promoting an effective inclusive development process. The case studies are from many different parts of the world. The manual was published in Italy and translated to English.
This article by Vickie Gauci and Anne-Marie Callus has open access and is free to download. It discusses access and inclusion from the perspective of Stephen Hawking as portrayed in the recent film, The Theory of Everything. As Hawking says, “In twenty years, men may be able to live on the Moon. In forty years we may get to Mars. In the next 200 years we may leave the solar system and head for the stars. But meanwhile, we would like to get to the supermarket, the cinema, restaurants.”
Abstract: This article looks at the representation of scale in the 2014 film The Theory of Everything, identifying moments that relate to three concerns: firstly, how disabled people experience scale issues at an all too practical level in daily life; secondly, how Hawking’s experience of scale at the level of both body and mind is (a)typical of the way it is experienced by disabled people generally; and, thirdly, how a focus on the film can prompt some rethinking of perspectives both within disability studies and within the conceptualisation of scale more broadly.
In this entertaining video the late Stella Young talks about how we have been sold a lie about people with disability being ‘inspirational’ for just being themselves. She also argues that people with disability have been objectified in this process as being ‘special’ in some way and not counted as normal everyday people doing everyday jobs in an everyday world. On the topic of a positive attitude Stella says, “No amount of smiling at a flight of stairs has ever made it turn into a ramp.”
The social model in the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Agustina Palacios’ article inThe age of Human Rights Journal takes a human rights and social model of disability perspective. She briefly outlines the preceding models of disability and contrasts these with the social model inherent in the Convention. She then enters a philosophical discussion referencing the Convention and its underlying principles and assumptions, leads on to universality, and then ‘reasonable accommodation’.
“Taking into consideration all of the foregoing, it could be asserted that accessibility is the ideal situation, universal design would be a previous general strategy to achieve that ideal situation, and reasonable accommodation would be a particular strategy to be put in place when the universal design preventive purposes do not ensure accessibility.”
UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities sets out the obligations of signatories to the Convention. Australia is a signatory to this Convention. Each of the obligations are detailed in separate sections called Articles. There are 50 Articles. The General Principles of the Convention align with the Principles of Universal Design.
Article 3 – General principles
The principles of the present Convention shall be:
Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons;
Full and effective participation and inclusion in society;
Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity;
Equality of opportunity;
Equality between men and women;
Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities.
How can we attain our rights within a market-based economy, when those who do not experience social and economic exclusion have the the power of the market in their hands? From this comes the notion that “you can have your human rights if you can pay for them”. So it seems we have to be pragmatic about human rights in a market-based economy. That in turn means rights get enacted only after a cost-benefit analysis has been carried out and “the excluded” are assessed as being “affordable”. To gain rights, “the excluded” need to bring a benefit to the negotiating table. For more on this discussion, see Jane Bringolf’s speech notes from the 2014 Brisbane Housing Forum. It includes an explanation of Mutual Advantage Theory by Lawrence Becker. In Western societies, justice and fairness are not inalienable rights, but a negotiated process based on mutual advantage.
Margaret Ward presented the inaugural Robert Jones Memorial Oration in Brisbane in 2014. She recounts the life of Robert Jones and his dream to make public spaces and places accessible to everyone. She also uses the experiences of her father and daughter to illustrate the importance of living at home until your last days. Margaret challenges popular assumptions about how accessible housing will be achieved using the evidence from her PhD study on the private housing market.
“It takes many things for people to remain at home. Australians have agreed that it is in the public interest that people receive reasonable and necessary supports and affordable medical services to keep participating and contributing in community. There is no equivalent public interest in the design of their housing.”